Climb Just to Climb

Lately I’ve been feeling more cynical than usual toward pop yoga culture. Invariably, at least once a week, my Instagram feed spawns a photo of some yoga girl striking an extreme tortuous pose for seemingly no purpose other than to show off her asana. And that would be fine, if the caption earnestly stated: “Check me out, you fucks! I’m more flexible than you!”

But instead, photos of this nature are often accompanied by some bullshit about how all things are centered and balanced in that person’s life—the effect being that we as viewers make a correlation between performance and happiness.

Apparently all it takes to be an enlightened and fulfilled person is wearing a cute, tight yoga outfit and being photographed in front of a scenic wilderness while sniffing your own ass in a backbend.

Our desire to experience perfection cannot sustain longterm motivation—which, to me, is the ultimate goal.

Perfection is fleeting. Like a mirage, it vanishes whenever you come too close to it. Perfection, if it even exists, comes to us only as a gift in the unlikeliest moments of inspiration.

A friend of mine recently made a comment about how she does yoga because she heard it’s supposed to make her a better climber.

It struck me as an odd thing to say. Shouldn’t you practice yoga because you like to stretch or because it feels good—not because it helps your climbing? (It doesn’t, by the way.)

True yogis are badasses, physically and (more important) spiritually. They don’t wear yoga tights and shoot Instagrams of themselves. They know the difference between the End and the Means. Practicing yoga is not about achieving a perfection of form: it’s about pushing yourself incrementally toward that paradigm … but rarely, if ever, actually attaining it.

This is a profoundly difficult concept to accept, I think. How can you ever be happy doing something in which there is no ends? The same goes for climbing, of course. Once we send one hard route, we quickly realize that we weren’t at our limits; that harder challenges are out there; and that Alex Megos is going to come and onsight your route anyway and probably downgrade it.

The point of climbing, I believe, shouldn’t be to “climb 5.14.” The point of climbing should be to constantly replenish a deep and lasting wellspring of longterm motivation.

Go climbing just because you like climbing—not because of what it gets you, whether that’s the fanfare of sending a hard route or even the chiseled physique you see in the mirror. All of those things, like perfection, are fleeting mirages.

The accomplishment of sending a 5.14 (or whatever the grade happens to be; whatever is truly hard for your level) is not a reflection of skill or strength. In fact, it is nothing more than a circumstantial result of one’s passion and dedication to wake up every day, train hard, work on your weaknesses, overcome your fears and push yourself as far as you can. And then do it all over.

With this mindset, it is important to recognize that achieving your personal best on a rock climb is actually a moment of private victory—not something to be boasted about. I believe that it’s important to separate the pleasure we derive from fanfare and attention in the aftermath of an accomplishment from the private acceptance that our achievement was as fleeting and beautiful as a rare sunset—and like that rare sunset, hopefully one of many that we get to experience in our lives.


About The Photo

Daily Stoke Caption: Berta Martin on an 8b in Rodellar, Spain.

Photo by: Keith Ladzinski of 3 Strings Productions



  • Anson

    Great piece. Seeing cool pictures of myself climbing has never been as rewarding as actually climbing. In fact, sharing photos kind of makes me anxious – as if somehow sends won’t matter unless people “like” them. Success is measured by personal growth, not by someone else’s snap-judgement of your IG post.

  • Scott

    Well said. You’re right about the fleeting nature of the experience, but the after glow can warm you for a while! Hard to beat getting back to camp after a good day on the crags and sharing a brew with your partner and sharing your impressions of the climbs.